Cortado vs Latte

Cortado vs Latte

The preference for espresso drinks has increased by 50% in the U.S., and it begs the question, is there really a difference between coffee beverages? Well, if you consider yourself a coffee expert like I do, put down your cup and keep reading to learn more about cortado vs latte.

What Is a Cortado?

Cortados have recently begun to gain popularity. More shops are starting to add them to their menu. While the Cortado reigns from Spain, they have quickly picked up notoriety worldwide. 

Cortado is one of the many espresso-based drinks formulated with a double shot of espresso coffee and equal parts steamed milk. That may seem irrelevant as many coffee drinks are equal parts milk and espresso, but it is surprising to know that the proportions are significant in the espresso world. 

An espresso shot is equal to one fluid ounce, and once those shots have been added to a cup, the milk is added as the second and final step. It can be stirred in or set atop to act as a barrier to the acidity of the espresso. 

The milk added to the espresso is steamed but never foamed or frothed. The milk in a cortado simply acts as an acidity barrier. It reduces the espresso’s acidity, making it smoother and more delicious. 

The precise proportions of this beverage are what sets it apart from the rest. Cortados often have difficulty making it onto menus since they only come in one size. It stops being a cortado when it is manipulated to be a larger size.  

Cortados are a unique beverage separated solely by equal parts espresso and milk. In staying true to its simplistic nature, the milk is never foamed, frothed, mixed, or shaken and excludes added flavors and sugar.

How Is a Traditional Cortado Brewed?

Surprisingly, there are several ways to brew a cortado, depending on the style of beverage and the region. However, since we are sticking to the strict definition of a cortado, we will cover the most common way. 

It is most typically brewed using espresso machines. Espresso grounds must be heated to the right temperature and pressurized to extract a concentrated shot.

Because a cortado is rarely more than eight ounces, you would need roughly two tablespoons of ground espresso coffee beans to yield two shots of espresso. It doesn’t take much to achieve a shot of espresso. More espresso shots can be used if a stronger coffee drink is desired. 

To complete the cortado, you must steam two ounces of whole milk. Once again, never allow the milk to get foamy. Once the whole milk is steamed to perfection, it can be stirred into the espresso or simply poured on top to settle. 

The brewing of the espresso may vary depending on the coffee shop or even the region. Some countries have their version of the cortado, but this seems to be most in line with Spain’s version. 

What Is a Latte?

Technically the milk Latte has been around for centuries but became one of the most famous espresso drinks in America in the 1980s. Since then, it has become more and more personalized and varied. Despite that, it does have a basic ratio of the coffee and milk combination that makes it a latte.

A latte is also an espresso drink that requires espresso brewing with the espresso machine. Once brewed, you can add cream. The espresso is then met with steamed milk and/or topped with milk foam. A barista delicately pours that foamed milk on. It recently became trendy to have it poured into designs, something known as latte art. 

While the size varies, the typical espresso-to-milk ratio for a latte is one part espresso to three parts milk. Sizing here speaks to the strength of the beverage. A small latte is still a full shot, met with less milk. A small latte will taste much more robust than if you had a larger size where more milk is added. 

This particular drink will likely vary in proportions depending on which local or franchise coffee shop you prefer. Additionally, we know that a latte is easily customized. Vanilla is a classic coffee flavor added to a latte, making it sweeter and cutting down some bitterness.

Lastly, you can order a latte hot or cold. By simply adding ice after the drink is made, it becomes an iced latte. Ordering an iced latte often lacks steamed or foamed milk because it just doesn’t settle well.  

Caffe Latte

How Is a Latte Brewed?

Because a latte is also an espresso-based coffee, brewing is quite similar; you would need two tablespoons of espresso to yield two espresso shots. As we know, lattes have a larger wheelhouse, so they can be assembled differently. 

The same process is needed to create a shot of liquid espresso, fine grounds, heat, and high pressure. 

Most coffee shops will offer varying sizes when it comes to their lattes. The size desired determines the number of espresso shots needed. Once those shots are ready, milk is added to complete the drink. 

For most lattes, milk is steamed, foamed, and poured atop the espresso using the preferred milk. At this point, you would add any flavoring you want to the beverage. That is all for a hot latte; if an iced latte is preferred, different steps are taken. 

Shocking espresso refers to adding ice right after it has been brewed. That burns the espresso. So to avoid shocking the espresso, ice is added after the cream and sugar. 

Cortado Vs LatteKey Differences

Here are a few things that set cortados and lattes apart. 

Caffeine Content

A regular cup of coffee yields about 12-16 milligrams of caffeine per ounce, with the total caffeine content depending on the drink size. Espresso, on the other hand, yields around 60 milligrams of caffeine per one-ounce shot. So let’s look at that for a cortado and a latte. 

The cortado comes with a standard two shots of espresso, equaling about two ounces, so that puts the cortado yielding about 120 milligrams of caffeine, give or take. 

Figuring the caffeine content for a latte is going to be a little different simply because they are more easily adjusted and personalized. Lattes have a single shot of espresso for a standard eight-ounce size, yielding 60 milligrams of caffeine. 

Using Starbucks as an example, you have several different size options. Their tall glass size would be one shot of espresso. Grande and venti sizes come with two shots yielding 120 milligrams of caffeine, give or take.

Flavor Profile and Taste

The light, medium, and dark roasted coffee beans create different acidity and flavor. Espresso beans typically come from the dark roast category. They hold up well in high-pressure brewing and are flavorful. 

What is that flavor? In using a dark roast, the bitterness is increased quite significantly, and some of the acidity is reduced. As a result, the flavor is rich, strong, and slightly bitter if properly roasted and brewed. 

Technically, you can use any type of roast for espresso. However, more often than not, it typically comes from the dark roast. So the espresso flavor is somewhat burnt and smoky, yielding that distinct coffee taste. 

The primary difference between cortados and lattes profiles is based on which flavors are elevated. The cortado is garnished to bring out that distinct smoky flavor and bitter taste. On the other hand, a latte will have a higher milk content, creating a smooth profile with a more nutty flavor. 

Calories and Serving Size

The average serving size of a cortado is about eight ounces. That eight-ounce cortado has a calorie count of 100 calories. The drink also comes with about seven grams of carbs and five grams of fat. 

The average latte serving size, at least the recommended size, is about 16 ounces, yielding roughly 190 calories, 18 grams of sugar, and seven grams of fat. But, of course, because a latte can be made larger and different kinds of milk or flavors can be added, these amounts are more subject to change. 

While a cup of coffee by itself yields about five calories, and an ounce of espresso is a little less than that. Most calories consumed with these beverages are from the added cream, creamy milk, or sugar. 

The lattes are usually made with low-fat milk that supports the formation of the milk froth. You can have whole milk for the Cortado, as there is no froth or foam involved.

Six ounces is the technically recommended amount of coffee primarily because any more than that yields an unnecessary amount of caffeine, despite our colorful belief that there is no such thing.  


Aroma plays an essential role in coffee development and taste. The aroma can be greatly affected by the roast of a coffee bean and how that plays out in flavor. The coffee bean is a seed derived naturally from a fruit plant. So at different roasts, they exude different aromas. 

When lightly roasted, they tend to retain sweeter aromas. A medium roast comes with flowery and sweet aromas, and a dark roast is a deep burnt, smoky flavor.

The aroma of the cortado scores high with that rich flavor and that distinct smell of coffee. It lacks in the arena of sweetness and is only slightly muffled by the cream added. It has a strong essence of bitterness and creaminess. 

The aroma of the latte isn’t quite so elevated. Due to its proportions, the aroma is a little more muffled. The initial essence has a sweetness to it, followed by a strong, rich feel. 

The Final Sip 

As it turns out, there is a real science to coffee and the difference between beverages. It’s not as simple as what you add to it but what makes it unique. Now that you’re the expert, comment on your thoughts and share this article to show off your new knowledge of cortados vs. lattes.

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